Volunteer abroad and empower children with diabetes

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 1.31.01 PMSummer program, apply now

Here’s an opportunity I wish I could take advantage of, but unfortunately I am too old, oh yes, and I don’t speak Spanish. But if you are a young person, at least sixteen years old, do speak Spanish and would love to have a life-changing experience empowering young people with diabetes, AYUDA (American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad) is for you.

AYUDA is looking for volunteers to help children with diabetes in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. You don’t have to be in medicine and you don’t have to have or know about diabetes, you will be trained. 

The Dominican Republic program runs mid-June to early July. The Ecuador program runs mid-July to early August. Applications are being accepted now until February 1 and here’s everything you need to know. 

Have a safe and wonderful journey.

How to politely tell diabetes-do-gooders to “Stuff it!”


Now you can tell family members, friends, colleagues and your mother-in-law to “Stuff it!” when they get in your face about how you’re managing your diabetes. You know, that finger-wagging, judgmental tone and unsolicited comment about, “Should you be eating that?” or “What’s your blood sugar?” As if all this work wasn’t enough.

That’s because the Behavioral Diabetes Institute (BDI) – founded by Bill Polonsky – have put out these nifty little Etiquette Cards to keep those of us who live with diabetes sane – and safer – from interfering busybodies and self-ascribed do-gooders. 

The mini (2″ x 3″) pocket-stuffers to keep people from getting in your hair have 10 tips each, such as these:

• Don’t tell me horror stories about your grandmother or other people with diabetes you have heard about, and

• Do ask how you might be helpful

In fact, even kids with diabetes can tell their parents to “Stuff it!” because they now have a card just for them equipped with great tips like:

• When my blood sugars are high, don’t assume I’ve done something stupid (although I may have), and

• Recognize that I am never going to be perfect with my diabetes care, no matter how much you want this

There’s also an all-purpose educational mini card called, “Don’t Freak Out! 10 Things to Know When Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes.” Including tidbits like:

• No, it probably isn’t a mistake, and

• Ignoring your diabetes after being diagnosed is a very bad idea

I joke, but these provide great little tips both to educate one’s self and those around you. If you haven’t heard of the BDI it’s one of the very few diabetes centers that help patients cope with the emotional stresses of diabetes: burn-out, depression and being off-track with your management through seminars and workshops. 

You can download the Etiquette Cards or send away for them.

Create a support network that helps you manage diabetes

Everyone living with diabetes does better with support. And now there’s a new APP that can help anyone build a personal support network so they don’t have to do diabetes alone. 

I’ve just developed 3 FREE great short, smart videos to help you invite people to be in your circle of support. There’s an APP under “EatSmart” ‘Build Your Personal Support Network’ or you can also find the videos online on the left hand side of the page under “Build Your Personal Support Network.” 

Video #1- Will help identify what you might need help with – for instance perhaps a drive to the doctor’s office, a walking buddy or someone to learn healthy cooking with, and, who might be available from your circle of loved ones and acquaintances to be on your team.

Video #2 – Gives you tips how to ask for help in ways that people will want to help you. Yes, it’s a little bit science, a little bit art and a lot of just being honest, open and appreciative.

Video #3 – Gives examples how you can use people’s help to help you develop and maintain healthy habits. 

Take a look and a listen. It will only cost you a few minutes of your time and there’s so much to be gained. I don’t know what it would be like having to manage my diabetes without the support of my husband and several of my great friends. 

Second International Positive Psychology conference

If you read my last post you won’t be surprised that I just spent 4 days in Philly at the Second World Congress on Positive Psychology sponsored by ippa – International Positive Psychology Association

ippa promotes the science, practice, collaboration and communication of positive psychology. Let me tell you first, that doesn’t merely mean thinking good thoughts. 

In a nutshell, positive psychology is a practice and a means to greater well being and happiness. The road is largely composed of: Being engaged more of the time in positive emotions (love, play, curiosity, compassion…) than negative ones (fear, guilt, shame…); Being engaged with life – you know those times when you lose track of time because you’re in “flow” with whatever you’re doing; Enjoying loving and supportive relationships; Having meaning/purpose in your life; Having a sense of accomplishment. 

In a practical sense, it also involves discovering, focusing on and using our strengths (you can take a surveyhere), being engaged in a mindfulness or meditation practice and being solution-focused rather than problem-focused.

The conference speakers were the world’s heavyweights in the field including psychologists and PhD’s Martin SeligmanBarbara Fredrickson and Ed Diener (these are merely the names I remember) as well as scientists, neurobiologists, university professors, psychologists, you get the idea. We participants were largely 1200 therapists and coaches from 62 countries around the world. I was indeed struck by the amount of Australians, Asians and Europeans who’d made the journey.

In general the conference is a coming together to share scientific research that validates the positive effect of positive psychology. 

There was so much to take away after 4 days of back to back lectures, workshops, and symposiums that I, and my mind, are rather exhausted. But these are a few things I took away:

1. Positive psychology is not just about being positive. It’s about living with your full range of emotions – including the negative ones – in a healthier way. Or as Dr. Fredrickson would say, it’s about using your positive emotions to broaden and build your resources, skills, connection to others, flexibilty and perspective to create greater well being and happiness.

2. Meditation and mindfulness do increase biological (slow and strengthen heart rhythm, increase circulation, lessen inflammation) and psychological health (increase compassion and awareness, make your thinking more open, quicker to see solutions) – and, it’s high time I got back to a regular practice.

3. If people are not ready to change behavior, they need information not persuasion. If they’re ready they need a plan and if they’re taking action they need to know how they will prevent relapsing back into their old behavior.

4. Focusing on what you want is a much more compelling strategy to move forward than avoiding what you don’t want.

5. “Coping” is a word that signifies “less than.” Whereas “thriving” and “flourishing” are words that signify “more than.”

6. Love is the seed that forges bonds, weaves social fabric, promotes health

I’ll also give you three things you can do right now and on a daily basis to up your Positivity Quotient and create greater health –  and you can do them without attending a conference or reading a book: 

1) Reflect each evening while falling asleep on 3 things you are grateful for or that went well that day

2) Give out more praise and compliments than you do criticism

3) When you get angry, catch your breath, pause, and try to see the personwho’s making you angry, not what they just did. We are all caught up in the stresses of life. Slow down and change or reframe the interaction.

My mind and my heart are all about this field and it’s a strong place to work from for anyone who has, treats or coaches anyone with a chronic illness. The next conference in the U.S. will be in two years. Maybe I’ll see you there.

The value of having a personal support network

An enthralled audience for my home recording session


 A month ago I was asked to create a video about the value of having a personal support network living with diabetes.

I immediately reached out to tens of patients to ask whether they had a support network, who was in it and what it gave them. 

I got answers like: 

My sorority sister and college roommate has been my friend who has listened when everything about diabetes has been a “bitch” from diagnosis to 36 years later. She has consoled, encouraged me, kicked my butt when I needed it, laughed at crazy things, cried with me when it just got to be too much…all the time letting diabetes be the smallest rather than the biggest part of who I am. 

My husband is my life line. Without him I might not be here to type!!!

My grandchildren, when they are with me are always reminding me to take my blood sugar or my shot. They like doing it for me and it is such a motivation for me because they are learning with me.

My entire family helps me – My wife reads the back label of all purchases at the grocery, my grown children drink “preppy micro-brew beer” but always have light beer in the house for me, during family celebrations my 87 year old mother always makes sure there is fruit for dessert. 

From the moment of my diagnosis, my partner Dan has been there. He held my hand in the emergency room (I was in DKA), told me that he would help with all of the new eating habits, and has been there ever since. He helps with meal planning, keeping an eye on the barristas at Starbucks (um, she said no syrup), and always kindly saying “you seem low.”  He also never does the peeking at my meter – he respects my privacy but is always willing to help if I’m high or low.

What I know from the answers I received and my own supportive partner – who carries glucose tabs and sweeTarts wherever we go as back-up, points me toward interesting articles and is always ready to listen when I’m on the edge of burn out – is the rock bottom value of having people in your life who are there for you.

The video I wrote and recorded will actually be a series of three – 1) Introduces the value of having a personal support network and helps you assess who’s in yours,  as well as what you could use help doing; 2) 10 tips on how to communicate effectively to have family, friends and acquaintances join your support network; and 3) 10 tips how to leverage others’ help and support to maintain healthy habits. I will keep you posted when and where they’re available.

For now, however, I couldn’t resist showcasing my excellent audience during my recording session. Truly, they were mesmerized; they didn’t make a peep or move a muscle!

More “After The Diagnosis”

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 4.19.01 PM

My last post was about the book I’m reading by kidney specialist, Dr. Julian Seifter, After the Diagnosis.

Last night I read two other thoughts Seifter expresses that I thought worth posting. He talks of the human spirit being able to find possibility and joy even in the face of devastating illness:

“Illness represents a hard limit – an unyielding reality that closes off possibility, compromises freedom, undermines desire and hope. At the same time, being sick opens up unexpected opportunities for creativity and growth. By taking away the ”taken-for-granted,” illness invites, even forces, new awareness and new learning. 

By exploring parts of the self that were once hidden by everyday routine, a sick person can find his way to creative expression, personal transformation, emotional enrichment. And though being sick is hard, very hard, it’s not the end of playfulness and joy. All of us who suddenly face an illness can discover within ourselves these capacities.

Facing up to adversity is less a matter of deciding to be strong than of letting go and seeing what comes next. What is most required “after the diagnosis” is the capacity to stay open to experience. By letting life happen and time go forward, we can hold onto future hopes and present meanings. 

What I take away is that there is still hope and love and joy even when life turns upside down and things look their darkest. What I know, from personal experience, is that you can let go and feel a kind of freedom even while living with chronic illness, when you know you know enough to manage your illness well. 



Holiday Gift: Free diabetes center in New York City

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 1.56.25 PMLeopard, tiger, you get the idea — one scary cat, waiting

The Friedman Diabetes Institute, part of Beth Israel Medical Center, opened last month in Manhattan. They’re located at 317 East 17th Street on the 8th Floor. All you need is a doctor’s referral to make an appointment and avail yourself of their free services. There are diabetes education classes and consults, as well as a nutritionist, exercise physiologist and diabetes nurse educator at your service. Did I say free?

December’s calendar shows weekly exercise classes being led by High Voltage, fitness guru whose ‘Energy Up’ program is helping school age kids in New York City get fitter. Trust me, there’s no other name for her spirit and passion. There are support groups for type 1s and type 2s, classes in medications, healthy holiday eating and footcare.

Did I say all this is free? What are you waiting for? If you live in the New York City  area run on those feet you want to protect and learn, learn, learn — check out your heart, your diet, your knowledge, make some new friends and get started on a healthy right foot in 2008.

Since the 1990’s more diabetes clinics have closed in New York City than are open. This is one of the few centers we have. Did I say it’s free?

Note: I found this quote on Scott’s Web log and as I think about getting the information you need to be healthy it seems so apt:

“Living with diabetes is like living with a tiger. If you feed it, groom it, never turn your back on it; you can live with a tiger. If you neglect it; it’ll pounce on you and rip you to shreds.” By Wil “Printcrafter”

Be your own Valentine, you deserve to love yourself


Last night I celebrated Valentine’s Day with 26 women and sent my husband away for two hours. I was the guest speaker, as the author of my new book,The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes,at a Divabetic support group meeting. Max Szadek, showman extraordinare and founder ofDivabetics, the group that’s quickly growing from a grass roots movement to a national phenomena, chided me that the evening was my book launch. Looking around the somewhat disheveled room at the McBurney YMCA I chided back, “So where’s the champagne?” But it was my launch. I was launching my philosophy about viewing our diabetes differently, positively, to a real-live group of people with diabetes.

Divabetic, in its support group meetings, and now its national Divabetic “Makeover Your Diabetes”events sponsored by Novo Nordisk, brings diabetes education and empowerment to women, attracting them through things that make women feel good about themselves like make-up and hair styling, pedicures and tea tastings, with diabetes educators and coaches at the ready to answer their questions. You may think it crazy, but it gets women out, talking about their diabetes and smiling. Of course I took empowerment on a slightly different trajectory last night – we were going within.  

The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes is about using your positive emotions to create a healthier and happier life. It’s pretty simple, really, if you focus on what you want and “rev up” your self-love, joy, courage and confidence, you’ll take the actions that will bring what you want into being, including greater health and happiness. Having greater health and happiness, you’ll perform your diabetes management tasks more easily, more regularly and more competently and confidently, with appreciation for how livable diabetes is, rather than being overwhelmed by anger and resentment.

Conversely, traditional diabetes strategies try to motivate better management through negative emotions – we are meant to fear complications and feel guilty when our management is not very responsible. Focusing on the negative, however, does not create sustainable positive actions. It doesn’t make you feel very good either. So I’m saying focus on what you love – about yourself, about your life, be grateful for the things you have and the people you care about, appreciate your courage and all you do living with diabetes, see yourself as a “warrior” not a “worrier” and be kind, patient and forgiving with yourself when you’re not on your game. Know you’ll do better tomorrow. Here’s something else, if you look, you can also find deeper meaning and purpose in your life through diabetes, and life can turn out to be even more rewarding, fuller, richer, healthier and happier than it was before you got diabetes. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t say I’d ask to have diabetes, I’m just saying since we’ve got it, better to find something good about it and get on with life.

Sound crazy? I wondered before I presented this idea to my 26 Valentinas last night. In Divabetic tradition, we began by passing a pink boa around the circle and each person gets to glam a little while introducing herself. I asked everyone to say their name, how long they’ve had diabetes, something they love about themselves and one positive thing diabetes has given them.

Half the women said, “appreciation or humility.” One woman having trouble seeing, as her eyes are faltering now from her diabetes, said she has so much more compassion for people who have no sight or have a disability. Another said humility knowing she could have something much worse than diabetes. Women who got diabetes young said it helped them learn to be strong and responsible.  Many women said diabetes has helped them eat healthier or get regular exercise, and they were grateful for that. Some talked about the friendships they’d formed from the group. Many said they are helping family members with diabetes, which makes them feel worthy and valuable. Others said it just makes them more aware of life and not to take things for granted. It has heightened their senses.

I was surprised how easily most of the women reported something positive they’ve gained from diabetes. A few were stumped to come up with something, but no one was argumentative or thought I was full of sh_t – something I had wondered about before I began.

Then I read aloud the text from the letter A in my book, A is for Appreciating All the Special Things You Are and Have. The group was quiet for a moment after I finished reading and then they applauded and murmured heart-felt messages of solidarity. Then I read my personal message from the book, “To My Fellow Travelers” and several women, including me, were brimming with tears. A diabetes educator seated to my right and a health coach seated to my left both told me how wonderful, delightful and right-on the book is and how this message needs to get out there. A diabetes nurse came up to me at the end of the meeting asking if I will come and speak to her diabetes class about this.

For decades many pharmas have been selling their products through fear, entrenched in the belief that that’s the best way to get patients motivated to take care of themselves, and use their meters and meds. Much of the medical profession has also been under the delusion that fear and guilt is motivational. How long have we heard, “You have to take care of your diabetes or you’ll lose a leg, go blind, have a heart attack!” But this focus on doom and gloom many doctors and pharmas have used has not inspired better management, we know that statistically, but it has increased denial and depression among the diabetic population. 

Now instead, imagine the approach to diabetes management was to have you focus on a picture of the life you want to live and believe you could have it. Imagine hearing that you should treat yourself with kindness and forgiveness when you have an off day, and that you are strong and capable enough to do better as you learn and practice. Imagine that you are encouraged to live the biggest life you can dream, that you deserve it and that you can have it with proper care. Wouldn’t you move heaven and earth to stay healthy?! You bet you would! 

The belief that patients can live a happy and healthy life is far more motivating and would sell far more meters and meds than the fear of complications, because we’d do everything to bring our desired life into creation. Moving toward what you want has proven to yield more success and be more empowering than avoiding what you don’t want. Excited, hopeful patients would actually use their meters and meds. Hmmm..that means companies would be selling more meters and meds. Sounds like a win/win to me. You can see a modified version of this attitude is actually being adopted by Bayer and Novo Nordisk. Bayer’s latest round of TV commercials has a more upbeat tone. Novo Nordisk, the world leader in diabetes care, launched an initiative in 2005 called, “changing diabetes,” where they’re bringing together innovators in diabetes education, treatment, reimbursement and policy to shift attitudes and change the way patients and health care professionals think about diabetes. Hallelujah! A beginning.

It’s time to take that message to every medical professional’s office and every patient: focus on the best vision of your life, energize your positive emotions and you will create more health and happiness – and better diabetes management. Why? Simple, you will see better management as the foundation that supports that fantastic life. And here’s a second message: Sometimes diabetes is a pain in the neck, frustrating as heck and you wish you didn’t have it. I know. But here’s what’s also true, if you really look, you can likely find something positive you’ve gotten from diabetes. The two are not mutually exclusive. Both can co-exist. So doesn’t it make sense to find something positive about having diabetes since it’s not going away anytime soon?

I have also never forgotten what the actor Jim Carrey did when he first got to Hollywood. He drove up into the Hollywood Hills and looked out over the blazing lights of Hollywood and visualized a check made out to him for $20,000,000 for making a movie. Ten years later it happened. I believe last night was a mini demonstration of what’s to come. And it will start where diabetes lives, in us, not in the white coated offices or pristine HQ campuses. So business and healthcare think the way they think, but on the ground, those of us living with diabetes are ready for change. Hmm… sounds like my political stump speech.

Last night, on Valentine’s Day, I celebrated loving yourself with 26 women. It was one of the best Valentine’s Day presents I’ve ever been given. Thank you Max.